Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

Book review: Dog Warrior

Today's book review is Dog Warrior by Wen Spencer.

This is the fourth Ukiah Oregon book.  (See my reviews of Alien Taste, Tainted Trail, and Bitter Waters.)  Don't try to read the series out of order; there's a lot of important background that is only glossed over, like who and what the major characters are.

The plot in this one is getting a little hard to believe.  The new character introduced is not impossible by the rules from the previous books, but it's unlikely enough that he'd be just as he is to be a bit of a stretch.  And the main villain of the series has a new plot revealed that is a tiny bit contrived.  (It is amusing, though, how the evil plot is used as a justification of one of the biggest boondoggles in recent history.)  But in spite of the shakiness of the plot, I found the characters and story captivating.  Ukiah and the new character end up growing a fair bit emotionally.  Unfortunately, the book ends in a rush (perhaps to keep things ambiguous enough that there's room for the series to continue, both on the level of big evil plots and on the level of the characters' personal lives), leaving me less than fully fulfilled about where the story ends.

It sounds like I didn't like the book, for all the complaining I'm doing, but I didn't.  My reading was stretched out over too long a time with too much going on in my life, but I found the story comfortable when I managed to find a few minutes to read.  For all the weaknesses, I think it's a better book than the previous two, and maybe better than Alien Taste.  As long as you bring a fair bit of willingness to suspend disbelief, you can probably enjoy it too.  8 out of 10.


The book opens with a new viewpoint character, Atticus Steele, stopping at a highway oasis and smelling blood in the trunk of another car.  He and his partner Ru decide to investigate when the armed-and-dangerous foursome go into the McDonalds, and discover a body which looks just like Atticus.  And blood mice.  The body is Ukiah, and it will turn out that Atticus is another piece of Magic Boy.  Atticus had a rough childhood; his adoptive parents were killed and he went through a series of foster homes.  His memories from before he was Atticus were even sketchier than Ukiah's, and until now he hadn't found any other connection to his alien nature and thought he was unique.  He and Ru are partners as undercover DEA agents as well as lovers, and they're trying to track down a new drug which has just hit the streets and which is starting to leave people mysteriously dead.  The drug is, of course, Invisible Red, and the source is the Temple of New Reason cultists, who were disrupted but not destroyed in the last book.  Ru is the only one of the DEA team who know anything about Atticus' alien nature, which creates tension as the Pack and the Ontongard start to be involved in the plot.

Atticus and Ru have arranged to buy some of the drug from the Iron Horses, one of the gangs of human Pack wanna-bes.  Ukiah warns Atticus of the danger of the drug and keeps Ru from touching it, telepathically, which Atticus has a little trouble dealing with.  Relations become further strained when the Pack steals the drugs from the DEA agents.

We flash back to show how Ukiah was tracking the cult into Ohio and got cornered and ambushed, which is how he ended up in the car.

As the action flies around with the Pack and the DEA agents chasing the cult and the Ontongard chasing both of them, they manage to find and disable Loo-ae (the airborne plague generator) which the cult had attached to a ventilation system on the Big Dig.  But Ukiah gets kidnapped again by the cult.  The cult is convinced that Ukiah is an angel because from their point of view he miraculously escaped from the trunk of the car and came back to life.  As Ukiah translates intercepted Ontongard communications, he manages to work out that the Ontongard have nearly completed an interstellar communication transmitter which would try to call more Ontongard.  The cult is convinced that they have programmed Loo-ae to kill just the Ontongard, but Ukiah doesn't trust them; when he can't convince them to abandon the plan, he escapes.  The cult get overwhelmed by Ontongard, but the DEA and the FBI combine to get the authority to track down the last clues they need about how the transmitter has been hidden in the underground works of the Big Dig.  (The transmitter is physically huge and an enormous engineering undertaking even without it being done as a secret conspiracy with the human firms involved having no idea what they're making parts for.  Thus, the huge cost overruns of the Big Dig end up blamed on the Ontongard.)  In one of of the last battles, Ukiah saves Ru from being doused with a huge dose of Invisible Red by putting himself in the way; he is hit with so much of the stuff that it kills him.  Atticus goes through the last battle and rigs things to blow up the Ontongard transmitter without knowing whether Ukiah lived or not.  At the end of the book, Atticus is reunited with Ukiah (we didn't think the hero of the serious could really die, did we?) and they have a very brief but touching moment of bonding.
Tags: book review, sf, wen spencer
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